Thursday, September 27, 2012


Update : 25 Sept 2012
Last weekend we caught the Max tram train into Portland city centre. We left the train at the convention center stop and walked down past the small shed where the heritage cars were all still in bed (after all it was now weekend), hoping to catch a car on the new line down to the place where the opening ceremony was to be held, at the science museum (OMSI).  Not seeing any cars,  I re-read the invitation from our management, and realized the first car was not until 11.00, an hour after the official opening ceremony of the new “CL” line. After talking with some other people hanging around the place it was decided that the number 6 bus would take us there.
As we walked down to the street corner looking for the stop we spotted a no. 6 approaching and just caught it. The driver agreed he was going to OMSI and after crossing the river a couple of times the bus finally seemed to be heading to about the right place. The bus stopped on top of a bridge and the driver said get off here, down the steps to the street and down the road.
It looked like we were in an industrial jungle with high freeway bridges all over the place and a few old buildings here and there, but we persevered and finally spotted an OMSI sign on what looked like an abandoned substation.
Finally I spotted some tents in the distance and decided it must be the place. It was now almost 10.30 so we hurried along the road and a large crowd of people came into view and at last we spotted the wires and big metal fence and two cars waiting at the end of the track.
We watched the end of speeches, applause and we followed the crowd like the pied piper of Hamlin, down another road  and ended up at a pedestrian crossing across to the terminjus. Here we were jostling with politicians and many others including TV cameras, and also my boss (who showed up in one of my photos), and eventually there were so many people we could not see the actual ribbon cutting, but suddenly a lot of people appeared on the first car, which was our prototype no. 15, so we decided it was over. Just then we  heard a train  whistle and saw a plume of steam in the distance and realised it came from a Southern Pacific “Big Boy” 4-8-4 over at a brand new locomotive shed. The Oregon Heritage Railway Society was holding its first open day on the same day as the opening of the “CL” route.
Due to the extreme crowds around the tram terminus we decide to investigate the steam affair with three steam locos and about three diesels. It was a nice shed and interesting locos, with free lemonade and cookies, but we were there for opening day, so we trotted off back to the terminus and squeezed on to one of the Skoda cars. We rode on it for about six stops, brand new track and very smooth, but I really wanted to ride on no. 15. As usual the driver had his cab door open and when I told him I was looking for one of my cars he informed me it was about a block away going in the opposite direction.  At one point the north and southbound tracks cross each other at right angles and suddenly I saw 15 crossing our track in the distance. I decided to bail out and asked the driver to hold on while I extricated poor Pat from her seat halfway down the car. We could not seem to  find a way to get down to where 15 was so going so I agreed to go to a little park with her to look at the various stalls set up to publicize trade in the area of the new route, free food, band playing etc.
After a while I was getting hungry since there was no free food to suit my taste  so we crossed the road back to the   stop where we got off the first car. After a long wait due to no fixed schedule and thousands of passengers I eventually spotted a pantograph in the distance I finally spotted the outline of something with a pantograph, and it was red.  (Each Portland car is a different colour, ours  is red at one end blue at the other). It turned out it was no. 15, so we had a long ride on it back toward the town centre, uneventful apart for a close call with an illegally parked Toyota and a few problems with the wheelchair ramp.
Finally we got off, walked around the Saturday market and caught the Max tram-train back home.
A lot of riding for a $2 ticket again!
Back at work on Monday  we took the first production car back out on the test track and I had a couple of short rides on battery power to measure the current to make sure we had chosen the right circuit breaker.  The next jobs were crawling under the next car in the line to make measurements for some of the electrical equipment not yet installed.
I also talk with the folks from Siemens every day as they continue to check out all the various systems, this week it is doors, cab controls and software tasks going on.
The car under test has switches and wires hanging everywhere, well scuffed cardboard all over the floor, a table and chairs and computers inside, things tied up with string and tape, but it works well and has immaculate paintwork. Oh, and it has all the windows in it.

Steam Distraction
Ribbon cutting

Ribbon cutting throng
MAX tram train

First service car

Prototype in service
Car No 3

First Prod

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Clackamas update 18 Sept 2012

Last week our first car ran under its own power for the first time. Unfortunately I missed it due to the need for Pat and myself to fly back to NY, and then drive 2600 miles from New York to Oregon, which took us four days.
By the time I got back to Oregon I was told that the car had run about 25 miles on the circular test track, badly scoring the flanges on one side of the car due to the lack of gauge widening and the incorrect installation of the lubricator sticks.

Today, however was another milestone in that the car operated on 24v battery power for the first time. (This is required for manouvering past dead sections of wire or in and out of the depot.)  The track brakes work but sometimes have a habit of turning on unexpectedly during start up of the car, making everybody jump!

All the doors are now working almost right, one of the three air conditioners is dead, and there are no interior lights and won’t be until I finish redesigning their layout. We had a last minute change from Fluorescent to LED and we are now relying on a Chinese Canadian fellow to deliver us some LED tubes and some people in Finland to provide some new parts for the fittings. The battery is in a temporary box and the circuit breaker for it is held on with wire zip ties!

Tomorrow we have the people from Knorr here to sort out the hydraulic brakes (spring applied) and also we have to meet with Portland City tramway authority to iron out some technical matters.
This weekend is the opening ceremony for the inner city extension and I am assuming some of the replica heritage cars will be out there together with the Skoda cars since none of ours are finished as yet.

NEW and OLD CROYDON TRAMS by David Gambles

David Gambles visited the Croydon tram system this week to see the recently delivered trams which have allowed the introduction of a new route and extra capacity into the system. Here we see pictures of both the old and the new style trams.

(more information on David's visit to Croydon can be found at

Original Croydon car

New Croydon car

Interior view of new cars

Sunday, September 16, 2012



1282 outside the Red Lion with Sheffield Water Car in the distance

1115 looking resplendent on the depot fan, but you would think it was Blackpool day judging by the other cars on show!

Nice to see the snow broom out in the daylight

Glasgow 22 at Town End

The rejuvenated Paisley 68, now Glasgow 1068

Glasgow 22 in Glory Mine stub

812 keeps rolling on - always was my favourite!

Start of the Coplawhill depot simulation

Friday, September 07, 2012


Sat Sept 1st 2012
After a hectic week chasing schematics, design drawings and new parts for the new cars we are building at United Streetcar I felt like I could do with a change of pace. So on Saturday morning Pat and myself set off  southbound on the I5 freeway from Portland to exit 263, to the Oregon Electric Railway Historical society’s museum premises about 30 miles from where we are staying in Portland. The museum is buried in a large complex of various historical oil engine and tractor related stuff, with about 1 and a half miles of track and a “car barn”. 

When we arrived we saw bits of engines and tractors all over the place, and a depot of sorts, some rather dusty track with some overhead that looked a bit wonky, but no sign of a car. The group of engine enthusiasts in one of the sheds told us it would be back soon, so we hung around hoping for something to appear. Eventually we heard a clanging noise as the one car in service came trundling across a rather odd road crossing on a street corner, triggering off the railroad crossing bells and lights.
We made our way over to the  end of the track where the car had stopped and realized we were looking at a rather weather-beaten but interesting car from Sydney NSW. It was Sydney 1187, a classic open sided car.  There were  a couple of passengers on the car, and the driver was a man wearing a uniform with a hat labelled “Motorman”.  He was at least five years older than me (I am 68) but as sharp as a pin. He told me all about the car, and knew all about Crich and Blackpool 48 and 49, and graciously accepted my offer to help him swapping trolley poles over. That must be the first time I handled a trolley pole in at least 32 years!

We followed the driver into the building where he unlocked the cash register, took our $10 and gave us some tickets which he punched with his official Southern Pacific ticket punch and then climbed up on 1187, and lumbered off down the track with the driver, Bill, who turned out to be the society treasurer, telling us all about just about everything we passed. He was an absolute mine of information!  We passed the barn, over a couple of points, including one which Bill had a great delight in telling us about its broken frog, and round a couple of fairly sharp curves to the other end of the track. There were a few scary places on the track, but it was a delightful ride, and we had picked up a man with a  camera on the way there, and a couple of small children climbed on the end of the line.  I helped swapping the trolley poles over again. We made our way back to a stop near the barn, where we all got off for a tour of the cars in the barn.  Some were quite a sad state of disrepair, but Blackpool 48 looked fairly presentable albeit painted in a somewhat incorrect colour scheme.  

After we boarded 1187 again we went back to the start of the line, going through the trolley turning routine again, and Bill sold some tickets to two more passengers.We thought we would see him off again on  the next trip, and started to say farewell, but he said to us “do you have to rush off somewhere?”  “No, I said, not really”. “OK”, he said, “then it is your turn to drive!”   This took me back a bit, but he handed me the reverser and air brake keys, and off we went. It is the first time I have driven a tram for about 36 years, although I have driven a few heavy rail cars from time to time as part of my job. It was a real thrill, and really made the day memorable. However, some of the track is so rough, and the overhead is so loose that I feel I really need to go back and help them work on it. Since I am supposed to be here until we deliver some new cars I should be able to go help them out.

The next day Pat was feeling rather tired so I made a trip into Portland on my own I walked from our hotel where we are lodging for a while over to the TRIMAX terminus and caught a Siemens LRV into Portland city centre. Once there I found the new (2001) streetcar loop, with some Skoda cars running on it.  I rode a couple of the cars, then on may way back to the hotel I caught a glimpse  ofd one of the four replica heritage cars Portland had built. It was quite a thrill to see it but too late for me to get a ride that day.

When our new “made in America” cars that we are working on are complete they will be used to supplement the Skoda cars, and they will also run on a new loop around the city due to open September 22nd  later this year.

The complete Portland system is quite intricate and extensive, all lines connected together and all on the same voltage. It reminds me of Glasgow for some reason, a really nice system to tour.
I am sorry this is such a long ramble but I had such a  nice two days of electric traction I thought some people might be interested.
P.S.  Since I am over 60 I rode all day around Portland for just $2.00 or about one pound 28p

Photos from Bob in next blog